Five Easy Ways to Mess Up a Conference Speech!

by Daniel O'Connor

Speaking at a conference is a massive chance for exposure, giving you an opportunity to grow your career, your business, or to make amazing contacts. Sadly, a lot of speakers make (at least) one of these 5 common mistakes.


Here they are…


Mistake one: BORING!

There’s always going to be the odd speaker that can send their audience to sleep, but you don’t have to be one of them. Even if your topic is not thrilling, enthusiasm and humour go a long way. A joke might not always be appropriate, so how about an anecdote, or some human values? How about something current, or an observation you’ve made?

Keep things light and remember that your speech is for your audience, not at them. If you can’t be enthusiastic about the subject you’ve been invited to speak about, try and be enthusiastic about being there and getting to share such as great opportunity with everyone. The more entertaining you are, the more you give your energy, and the more you offer yourself to your audience, the more likely they’re going to remember you and come and speak to you later (which is how an opportunity can develop).


Mistake two: SELLING!

Speakers who treat their audience like potential customers are perhaps the most awful that you will come across. Many people would rather listen to a boring talk than a sales pitch. Remember that people are usually there to learn and to get interesting information. If you start selling to them, they will tune out, and they’ll know you as someone who puts sales before relationship building, so they won’t come and have a chat with you later.

If you don’t know how to be interesting, instead be helpful. Talk about problems that your audience might face - if you’re clever, you can weave in your product or service into the talk, but don’t be annoying with it.


Mistake three: ‘Erm, sorry the PowerPoint isn’t working’

It’s absolutely painful watching someone at a conference try and navigate the projector and their truly awful PowerPoint presentation, so remember to not be one of them. It’s so hard to recover from a slow start, so make sure you’re well practiced, you have a Plan B, and you know how to use a remote control so that you aren’t back and forth changing slides. Practice your presentation with friends, family, and colleagues, because it’s a huge opportunity for your project, business, or career.

Remember to not read off of your PowerPoint either, because that’s a surefire way for your audience to think that you’re treating them like idiots. It’s so boring being read to from a slideshow, so keep the slides simple and use your passion to expand on them! If your technological partner fails, be prepared with a story that shows your expertise and knowledge.


Mistake four: Talk too much, leave no time for questions

You’ve been given a time slot, so stick to it. It’s disrespectful to the organiser, the audience, and the other speakers to go over your allotted time. To avoid it, set an alarm to give you a 5 minute warning, at this point, quickly let the audience know that you’re now taking questions.

Q&A sections give you the opportunity to show your brains when it comes to your expert subject. It gives visitors and listeners the chance to learn more, as well as to build a relationship with you over a shared issue. There may be several members of the audience with the same question, and so by answering it, you become memorable to many people. If you don’t get asked any questions, you can have a question prepared for yourself, which can be lighthearted, or a quick fun fact to help shed even more light on the topic.


Mistake five: Who are you?

Oops, you gave your speech, but you forgot to say who you are, who you work for, and why you’re an expert. As far as the audience knows, you’re just someone who can talk. You need to introduce yourself properly, and give people a call to action at the end. You need to let them know why you’re a credible speaker and a valuable contact, but remember to not let it turn into a sales pitch.

Put your contact details on the first and last slide, especially social media handles and your email address! Invite people to email you with their questions.  Keep your contact slide up while you talk and take questions, but don’t have a slide that just says ‘Questions?’. Give them a reason to get in touch.

Daniel says


"I actually pass around a clipboard so people can add their emails and i can get in touch with them later. This gets around the whole GDPR thing"


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